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Outreach teams shuttle unhoused to city warming shelters

Outreach teams are putting in extra hours to connect with those experiencing homelessness in need of a warm place to stay – directing them to city warming shelters.

DENVER — As Denver hit record-breaking cold temperatures this week, the city activated warming shelters for the most vulnerable communities – including those experiencing homelessness. 

The Denver Coliseum, YMCA and more are serving as warm places to stay. In the meantime, UC Health said they've had five people needing treatment at their frostbite center.

Rec centers and libraries are also available during regular operating hours, and Aurora, Lakewood, Boulder and Westminster also all have warming centers set up.

Several organizations like Colorado Coalition for the Homeless are referring people to the warming centers.  

Credit: FILE

"I think what was particularly troubling about this weather event was just how quickly it happened," said Cathy Alderman, the Coalition's public policy and communications officer said of their efforts Wednesday night. "They were so warm all day. And so it was difficult to convince people that this was coming."

Still, when the front rolled in, Alderman said their outreach teams worked into the night to contact those that needed a warm place to stay or transport to get to shelters. 

"I think there is enormous pressure on any of the teams that are providing direct services to folks experiencing homelessness, whether that's on the street and health care centers at drop-in centers..." she said. 

Crews were back out on Thursday morning with clinicians checking on people that crews connected with the night before, Alderman added. 

"Our teams are very flexible," she said "They're operating in crisis mode pretty much all the time because, you know, people experiencing homelessness, whether it's a weather event, it's a loss of belongings, it's, you know, an ability to get across town, they are in crisis quite a bit. And the best way to deal with that is to remain flexible and to try to identify as many resources as possible and connect people to the things that they need to be safe and to survive."

Credit: FILE

Denver's Department of Housing Stability also had outreach teams working extra hours to help identify people that needed warm places to stay. 

"I think we have around three dozen staff members between our outreach team and our partners working extended hours to help get people inside," said Angie Nelson, the department's deputy director and of homeless response. "People are convinced by the things that they can see and feel around them in the moment. And so knowing that that was the situation, our outreach workers helped to connect people with bus tickets. They handed out their business cards and said, 'If you change your mind, call me.'"

Both organizations added that the situation of migrants making their way to Denver has contributed to the stretch of city and county resources on several fronts. 

But no matter who they're helping, both organizations hope to make an impact on those that need warmth. 

"That's really the most important thing," said Nelson. "That at whatever moment someone decides that they're ready to come in, we want to be equipped with the means to do that."



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